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War in Heaven

3.83  ·  Rating details ·  1,556 ratings  ·  181 reviews
Williams gives a contemporary setting to the traditional story of the Search for the Holy Grail. Examining the distinction between magic and religion, War in Heaven is an eerily disturbing book, one that graphically portrays a metaphysical journey through the shadowy crevices of the human mind.
Paperback, 256 pages
Published January 2004 by William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company (first published 1930)
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Average rating 3.83  · 
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 ·  1,556 ratings  ·  181 reviews


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mark monday
synopsis: various Englishmen, an Englishwoman, and a lively Englishboy are embroiled in a murder mystery, a sort of treasure hunt, the nefarious goals of various occultists, and a diverse array of paranormal happenings; unsurprisingly, they barely bother to acknowledge let alone comment on the spiritual and supernatural aspects intruding violently upon their lives, no doubt because they are English and such immoderate declarations of the obvious would certainly be considered a trifle unseemly.

I
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K.J. Charles
"The telephone bell was ringing wildly, but without result, since there was no-one in the room but the corpse." Hell of a way to start a book.

An extraordinary occult thriller set at first in a London publishing house run by the two kinds of publisher (1: flaccid dweeb publishing trashy novels for money; 2: evil incarnate). The publishing stuff is genuinely hilarious, but we soon discover via a late amendment to page proofs that the Holy Grail (here Graal) has been found in a small English villag
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Richard
Jan 26, 2015 rated it really liked it
Of the three Inkling fantasy writers Charles Williams is the least known and appreciated. Yet, his series of supernatural fantasy novels are every bit as interesting and original as the books by C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien.

This is the first of the seven novels written by Charles Williams. (He did start one other but abandoned it after three chapters owing to a lukewarm reception by his fellow Inklings.)

"War In Heaven" is quite an opening debut. Rather than creating a unique secondary fantas
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[Name Redacted]
This book began well enough, but quickly became all but interminable. It was a long, inexplicably slow slog, and the brief-but-regular moments of wit and brilliance simply couldn't make up for how unaccountably difficult I found it to finish. The fascinating approach to magic and Satanism was likewise overwhelmed by the grotesque anti-Semitic caricature "Manasseh". Add to that the fact that Williams (a friend of Tolkien & Lewis) seems to subscribe to a sort of 19th/20th century transcendental Ch ...more
Jeannie
This was my first encounter with Charles Williams. I read this for a Christian Fantasy class at BYU many years ago. I can still remember so much of the experience. There is no other way to describe reading a Charles Williams novel: it is an experience never to be forgotten. I once read that C.S. Lewis will take his readers up to the gates of Hell then turn tail and run; Williams on the other hand will march his readers right through those gates and they will emerge on the other side battle weary ...more
Sheila
Oct 08, 2010 rated it really liked it
Charles Williams died in 1945, aged fifty-nine, and I acquired three of his novels recently from a second-hand stall. This is the first one I’ve read. I found myself thinking of the differences between modern writing and the stories of not-too-long ago, remembering reading Dickens as a young teen and coping fine with long descriptions that would later bore my sons, knowing as I read that “this is a good author” therefore trusting the story to come. Not that Charles Williams writes like Dickens, ...more
Tim Pendry

This was the first novel (1930) of Anglican fantasist Charles Williams. It contains all his opacity, irony and subtle and sometimes sardonic humour about a weak but basically decent humanity faced with the ineffable, set within something close to a pastiche of interwar popular fiction.

Elsewhere I have reviewed his later (1937) 'Descent into Hell' which is a much more intense and difficult work and which I know I am going to have to read twice in order to understand it adequately but this first n
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Dave
Oct 15, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The edition that I read has a cover quote from T.S. Eliot about Charles Williams's novels: "There are no novels anywhere quite like them. They are very good thrillers...they are exciting. They are the work of a man who had something very serious to convey."

Well, I haven't read any others by him, but I could add one more sentence of description. They are whackadoodle.

What is this like? Sort of like G.K. Chesterton, with spirituality and absurdity thrust into workaday England. Like C.S. Lewis, dee
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Joshua
Jul 17, 2012 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this novel, but I can't imagine recommending it to anyone, because the author's perspective is very hard to ascertain. The prose is cleaner and easier to read than "All Hallows Eve", and the atmosphere is definitely less ethereal. the story is such a strange mix of Victorian and modern ideas; imagine if H.P. Lovecraft and G.K Chesterton wrote a Father Brown mystery, and then made the mystery a subplot. Again in this work, as with the previously mentioned "All Hallows Eve", Willi ...more
Corey
Aug 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018
“Oh, damn and blast!” he cried with a great voice. “Why was this bloody world created?”

“As a sewer for the stars,” a voice in front of him said. “Alternatively, to know God and to glorify Him forever.” (p. 95)
Manuel Alfonseca
Mar 09, 2018 rated it liked it
ENGLISH: Although Williams is unbeatable when describing the process of damnation of a human being, in this novel there are some things I did not like:
a) The deus ex machina that solves the problem introduces himself as Prester John, Galahad, the Graal, the bearer of the Graal, Mary, and at a certain moment also identifies with Christ. I find this mixture of real and fictional characters quite inadequate.
b) I did not always like the behavior of the protagonist (the archdeacon).
c) I find littl
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Brandon Pearce
Feb 14, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: inkling
Wow! Charles Williams was a great friend of Tolkien and C.S.Lewis. He was part of their group called the Oxford Inklings. This novel deals with some fascinating material: the sangraal, and a battle between satanic and heavenly forces on earth. Quite chilling in parts. Take a look at the malleus malificarum in reference to the Witch's Sabbath parts. A bit mind boggling in spots, like reading a whole novel of Neal A Maxwell talks. Heck, he's one of the guys that converted C.S. Lewis to Christianit ...more
Taryn
Aug 28, 2011 rated it it was amazing
War in Heaven by Charles Williams wasn’t the easiest book for me to read. It has a lot of long sentences, not a lot of dialogue, and a lot of talking about things I don’t know (or words I don’t know). And it talked a lot about the devil.

However, it really was a tremendous story about faith, and good and evil, and Jesus, and the Eucharist, and the communion of saints. I will never be the same after reading that book. Honestly. It’s affected my faith forever, for the good.
Quiver
May 25, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: a-english
The Goodreads blurb didn't sell it to me, this line from a New Yorker review did:

The jacket copy, anonymous but evidently written by the Faber editor T. S. Eliot, described Williams’s novels as “supernatural thrillers.”


And then there's the fist line of the book:

The telephone bell was ringing wildly, but without result, since there was no-one in the room but the corpse.


With those two things in mind, and the knowledge that this was a merging of the search for the Holy Grail and a murder myst
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Eleanor
Apr 13, 2015 rated it did not like it
This book really didn't do anything for me (sorry Richard!). I found Williams' style a bit clunky - a good example is the fancy dialogue between Kenneth and the Duke when they first meet - and the whole Christians versus devil-worshippers theme had no appeal whatsoever for me. I managed to get through to the end, but only just.

Just not my cup of tea, but I can well understand that it would be quite compelling for people who share Williams' beliefs.
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Mike (the Paladin)
Williams is one of the writers that C. S. Lewis named as an inspiration. He became part of the Inkling group. I have used the word esoteric to refer to him elswhere about another book and I believe it does apply and describe his writing. That being said I highly recommend this book. You will need to think about it and not enter in with your mind in neutral but really, isn't that a good thing? ...more
Mary
Mar 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Actually, this book is impossible to rate. I believe this is my second reread, and I enjoyed it much more this time around. It is, honestly, a very beautiful book, but also off-putting in places, in part because it sometimes seems very abstract, and in part because it can raise more questions than it answers. If anyone picks it up expecting a traditional thriller or murder mystery, they will be disappointed.

Why, then, did I give it five stars this time round? First, there is some absolutely beau
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wpschrec
Jan 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, favorites
Really good story. It follows an Anglican Archdeacon, a publishing clerk, and a Catholic Duke try to keep the Holy grail out of the hands of the occult and battle the forces of darkness. I really liked this story, it was thrilling and suspenseful.
Lady Mayfair
Oct 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, reflections
A more tolerable piece of writing than his Descent Into Hell, as Williams here seems more focused on telling a proper Story, with well established characters and an Arthurian quest for the Holy Grail as a plot line, rather than prattle about the transcendentalism of his own Christianity.
Conchita Matson
Mar 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
I’m somewhat intimidated by Charles Williams’ writing. I always feel like I am missing 90% of the meaning but know what the essence of the story is. This is the second story(?) I have read and I feel the same way; like what did I just read? A constant in both is imagery; so vivid that at times it is scary; like getting a glimpse of the spiritual world around me that I’m glad I can’t see.
Jeff Miller
Jan 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
"War in Heaven" is a novel written by Charles Williams in 1930. This was his first novel and from what I have read, it was rated as his best novel. I had been meaning to get around to reading this author mainly since he was one of the famous Inklings and a sale on his books helped me to get around to it.

This novel is a supernatural thriller and involves the Grail being found in a country parish in England. It starts with the finding of the body of an unidentified man in a publishing house and a
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Stephen Hayes
Aug 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Stephen by: Brother Roger, CR
Shelves: our-books, fantasy
I've just finished War in Heaven for the 5th time, at least, possibly the 6th, but the first since I joined GoodReads, so it is perhaps time to write a review here.

Charles Williams wrote seven novels, and in three of them there is a McGuffin, an object that motivates the characters and the action in the story. In his novel The Greater Trumps the McGuffin is a set of Tarot cards that reflect the movement of a set of dancing images. In Many Dimensions it is a stone with miraculous properties. And
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D.M. Dutcher
Apparantly the Holy Grail is mucking around in a parsonage in Fardle. An urbane publisher/satanist finds out and steals it. Meanwhile he's taken a fancy to a boy whom he tries to corrupt for some reason. The Archdeacon of the parsonage isn't really happy about this, and steals it back, and then things get weird as the publisher's two friends get involved. Oh, and there's a police inspector investigating a murder, and Prester John.

If you've ever read That Hideous Strength by C.S. Lewis, you've re
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Bryan Frink
Jun 11, 2011 rated it really liked it
In some ways similar to "The Exorcist," Williams' "War in Heaven" crosses genre, being both a horror book and a theological speculation. It doesn't have the driving force of "The Exorcist," but its roots are the same: a Manichean Christianity in which good guys and bad guys war over the souls of the undecided.

The book is quite personal, focusing the battle upon a small group of English men and women, along with one child, who are drawn together by the re-emergence of the Holy Grail--or "Graal,"
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Jonathan
Oct 22, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: gone
A lovely old fashioned evil publisher, opposed only by an Archdeacon, a Duke and various other persons, plus some forces possibly of angelic origin, or possibly pretending, it isn't really clear to me though the novel probably wants you to assume the former.

It is only fair to state that the body count is two murders by the forces of evil and one murder by the forces of good, though one of the first murders could have been prevented had the possibly angelic personage been actually interested in h
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Christopher
Jul 08, 2009 rated it really liked it
Really a wild, fun book. This is Williams at his best.

Also read in Summer of 2009.
Stephanie
Sep 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2020
Thrilling and theologically provoking. I'd be almost asleep and suddenly sit up saying "what?!" and continue reading for an hour. The writing would be dark and disturbing and suddenly there'd be a blip of dry British humor that would have me chuckling out loud. Overall, not a good book to read while your spouse is attempting to go to sleep! Definitely worth re-reading, because I have a feeling I missed much on this first read. ...more
Victoria
Jan 18, 2021 rated it it was ok
Ehhh. I had trouble enjoying this book because the characters felt flat. They weren’t really like people- they felt more like positions on a spectrum from pure evil to completely at peace with God. Though there were one or two interesting quotes, his writing on the whole frustrated and bored me at turns.
Ada
Jan 11, 2012 rated it really liked it
It seems odd to me that though I've loved the two most prominent Inklings (Lewis and Tolkien) for many years, I'd never ventured into the works of the others until now. It took a most unpleasant illness and the resulting long weekend to get me to sit down with this book. I am most glad that I finally did.

War in Heaven is densly populated with complex characters, complicated plotting, and weighty moral issues. A pall of darkness hangs over London, the lives of the characters, and this book as fi
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Horror Aficionados : Charles Williams 1 12 May 21, 2013 08:26PM  

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263 followers
Charles Walter Stansby Williams is probably best known, to those who have heard of him, as a leading member (albeit for a short time) of the Oxford literary group, the "Inklings", whose chief figures were C.S. Lewis and J.R.R Tolkien. He was, however, a figure of enormous interest in his own right: a prolific author of plays, fantasy novels (strikingly different in kind from those of his friends), ...more

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